The Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR), also known as the SPY-6, is a next-generation integrated radar providing both exoatmospheric and air defense, and surface warfare capabilities on U.S. surface ships.1
The SPY-6 will be featured on the Flight III Arleigh Burke Guided Missiles Destroyers. The radars are slated to be 30 times more powerful than the current SPY-1 radar.2
The SPY-6 radar was initiated in the early 2000s and designed to provide air defense, ballistic missile defense, and support surface warfare operations. SPY-6 consists of three major components: the AMDR S-band radar, which provides volume search, tracking, and missile discrimination; the AMDR X-band radar, which provides horizon and surface search, precision tracking, and terminal illumination; and the AMDR Radar Suite Controller, which coordinates and integrates both radars. The Navy is delaying AMDR-X deployment and plans to use the existing AN/SPQ-9B for the first dozen Arleigh Burke Flight III ships. It plans to procure 22 AMDR systems.
In 2013, the Missile Defense Agency awarded a $385.7 million cost-plus contract to develop the radar.3 The first SPY-6 was delivered in July 2016 and is currently installed at the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii. The system is expected to undergo field testing in 2021 with initial operating capability scheduled for 2023.4
The SPY-6 consists of an S-band AESA radar for air and missile defense, an X-band radar for horizon search, and a command and control integration center.5 The AMDR is the first radar built with Radar Modular Assemblies (RMA) building blocks, which allows for the radar to be scaled smaller or larger. The system’s Radar Modular Assemble (RMA) are 2’ x 2’ x 2’ radars that are scalable and will be able to fit different ships according to their mission. RMA blocks will use gallium nitride (GaN) which need less space, power, and cooling.6
The SPY-6 radar will also enable digital beam forming, allowing more precise tracking and the potential to execute electronic attacks.7
The SPY-6 will be 30 times more sensitive than currently fielded radars on the Arleigh Burke Destroyers and can handle over 30 times the targets of the SPY-1.8
The SPY-6 may also have offensive capabilities, including the ability to perform electronic attacks with its active electronically scanned array (AESA) antenna. The ASEA array could attack airborne or surface targets by using “tightly directed beams of high-powered radio waves” that could blind adversaries’ assets.9
The Presidential Budget justification for 2011 detailed that:
“AMDR will provide multi-mission capabilities, simultaneously supporting both long range, exoatmospheric detection, tracking and discrimination of ballistic missiles, as well as Area and Self Defense against air and surface threats. For the Ballistic Missile Defense capability, increased radar sensitivity and bandwidth over current radar systems are needed to detect, track and support engagements of advanced ballistic missile threats at the required ranges, concurrent with Area and Self Defense against Air and Surface threats. For the Area Air Defense and Self Defense capability, increased sensitivity and clutter capability is needed to detect, react to, and engage stressing Very Low Observable/Very Low Flyer (VLO/VLF) threats in the presence of heavy land, sea, and rain clutter.”10
The SPY-6 features several improvements over SPY-1. The first is scalability. SPY-6 is constructed with identical 2’x2’x2’ Radar Modular Assemblies (RMA), permitting customized radar outfits for various mission sets.11 Another improvement is power output and range capabilities. According to Raytheon, the prime contractor for SPY-6, the 37 RMA-configured SPY-6(V) provides SPY-1 +15 dB capability, which translates to the ability to detect a target of “half the size at twice the distance.”12 SPY-6 also features 70% fewer unique parts, simplifying maintenance, the ability (as an active phased array radar) to generate multiple, simultaneous beams, and is generally more capable in more challenging radar environments.13 Some reports suggest AMDR may also have offensive capabilities, including the ability to perform electronic attacks with its active electronically scanned array (AESA) antenna. The ASEA array could attack airborne or surface targets by using “tightly directed beams of high-powered radio waves” that could blind adversaries’ assets.
Original Design & Criticism
While the current SPY-6 radar marks a significant improvement over SPY-1, its original design was larger and even more powerful. The 22-foot AMDR was first planned to fit the Navy’s CG(X) ship, which would replace its aging Ticonderogas. However, the Navy found CG(X) too costly at $6 billion a ship and its design presented too much risk. It was canceled in April 2010 and replaced with the redesigned Arleigh Burke Flight III, which can accommodate a radar of up to 14 ft.14
A number of defense analysts have criticized the Navy’s move from CG(X) to the DDG-51 Flight III. According to the GAO, the Navy’s 2009 Radar/Hull study that supported this shift “assumes a significantly reduced threat environment from other Navy analyses,” and that the 14-foot AMDR “will be at best marginally effective.”15The Navy disagrees with these assessments, and officials argued that the DDG-51 hull form satisfies radar requirements to meet modern threats. Yet if true, this raises concerns that the Navy may have exaggerated the original radar requirement for its Aegis fleet or has lowered its threat projections to artificially speed up the acquisition process.
Pentagon evaluation offices have also raised concerns about SPY-6 testing. The Navy and DOT&E have clashed since early 2013 over the requirement of a self-defense test ship (STSS) equipped with Aegis and SPY-6.16 In February 2016, the Department of Defense intervened to end the debate, directing the Navy to acquire the needed materials to test Flight III Aegis ships – including the AMDR and its associated armaments. The new ACS was supposed to be fit on a Self Defense Test Ship (SDTS), but the Navy has delayed this program significantly. This is highly problematic from a testing and evaluation standpoint. As one report on shipboard radar testing explains, “Only at sea, using real shipboard equipment in at-sea environments, can the SPY computer program be stressed to its limits.”17 Realistic testing of the SPY-6 radar is necessary and should not be further delayed by the Navy’s fear of failure or decrease in shipbuilding funds.
- Raytheon Corporation, “AN/SPY-6(V) Prepares for Live Target Testing,” ASDNews, July 7, 2016, http://www.asdnews.com/news-67203/AN/SPY-6(V)_Prepares_for_Live_Target_Testing.htm & U.S. Navy Fact File, “Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR),” May 19, 2016, http://www.navy.mil/navydata/fact_display.asp?cid=2100&tid=306&ct=2.
- Sam LeGrone, “Stackley: Arleigh Burke Flight III Destroyer, Air Missile Defense Radar Development On Track,” USNI News, April 7, 2016, https://news.usni.org/2016/04/07/stackley-arleigh-burke-flight-iii-destroyer-air-missile-defense-radar-development-on-track.
- Tamir Eschel, “Raytheon’s next generation naval radar passes milestone,” Defense Update, May 12, 2015, http://defense-update.com/20150512_amdr_cdr.html.
- U.S. Government Accountability Office, Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs, GAO-13-294SP (Washington, DC, 2013), 45, accessed October 18, 2018, https://www.gao.gov/assets/660/653379.pdf.
- U.S. Navy Fact File, “Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR).”
- “Raytheon delivers first SPY-6(V) air and missile defence radar to US Navy,” Naval Technology, July 11, 2016, http://www.naval-technology.com/news/newsraytheon-delivers-first-anspy-6v-air-and-missile-defence-radar-to-us-navy-4943727.
- Dave Majumdar, “Raytheon Enters New Phase of Next Generation Radar Development,” USNI News, July 24, 2014, https://news.usni.org/2014/07/24/raytheon-enters-new-phase-next-generation-radar-development.
- Tamir Eshel, “Raytheon’s next generation naval radar passes milestone,” Defense Update, May 12, 2015, http://defense-update.com/20150512_amdr_cdr.html.
- “Raytheon delivers first SPY-6(V) air and missile defence radar to US Navy,” Naval Technology.
- U.S. Navy, Presidential Budget (PB) 2011: Research, Development, Test and Evaluation Budget Item Justification, Advanced Above Water Sensors, Exhibit R-2, February 2010, http://www.dtic.mil/descriptivesum/Y2011/Navy/0604501N_PB_2011.pdf.
- SPY-6 scalability is demonstrated in the Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar (EASR) development, a smaller 9 RMA-configured radar designed for carrier and amphibious ships. It is worth noting, however, that while EASR uses “identical hardware, identical signal processing software, [and] data processing software”, it still cost the Navy $92 million to develop. These RMAs provide numerous configuration options but are not plug-and-play.
- Decibels (dB) is a relative measurement of RF power that equates to the difference in target tracking range given a fixed amount of power. For quote, see Raytheon, “The Air and Missile Defense Radar (AN/SPY-6(V)),” slide 6, https://www.raytheon.com/sites/default/files/news/rtnwcm/groups/public/documents/image/amdr-infographic-pdf.pdf.
- Maintaining the SPY-1 has been a significant issue for the Navy, as previously explained. The radar has to be shut down every two days for two hours for calibration.
- Reports in late 2018 suggest the Navy is again pursuing a CG(X)-like surface combatant, with the first ship of its class ordered by 2023. Analysts maintain that a large cruiser replacement is required for its significant (i.e. 120+ cell) VLS capacity, additional command planning spaces, manpower, and stronger radar system.
- U.S. Government Accountability Office, Arleigh Burke Destroyers: Additional Analysis and Oversight Required to Support the Navy’s Future Surface Combatant Plans, GAO-12-113 (Washington, DC, 2012), 1, accessed October 18, 2018, https://www.gao.gov/assets/590/587883.pdf.
- U.S. Government Accountability Office, Arleigh Burke Destroyers: Additional Analysis and Oversight Required to Support the Navy’s Future Surface Combatant Plans, GAO-12-113 (Washington, DC, 2012), 10, accessed October 18, 2018, https://www.gao.gov/assets/590/587883.pdf.
- Randy Strock, “Shipboard Testing of the SPY-1 Radar,” Leading Edge, volume 7, no. 2 (2010): 85, https://www.navsea.navy.mil/Portals/103/Documents/NSWC_Dahlgren/LeadingEdge/Sensors/Sensors03.pdf.